I graduated from college in 1996. One of my favorite classes was an elective where alumni would come in and give a talk about their businesses and how they started out. One guy really stood out. His business model was to do the jobs that no one else wanted to do. He had about 10 different businesses and the only thing they had in common is that someone else didn’t want to do it. He had one business where he rented out these giant 20 pack long porta potties for big construction jobs. He was the only one who had them, and when contractors bid on a big job, they would usually have to put a 25% non-refundable deposit on them in case they were awarded the construction contract. Because there were 3 to 5 contractors who bid on a job, every rental was paid for 2x over. It was pure genius.
I originally saw the enclosed video on get rich slowly. For anyone who is questioning whether they should quit the rat race and pursue their dreams, I suggest you watch this video first. Mike Rowe (the guy from Dirty Jobs) who gave this talk is extremely motivating and really made me think about how I can approach my job differently. I think everyone should watch it. He said it more eloquently than my memory recalls, but essentially, his 20 minute talk could be summarized in this statement: You don’t have to follow your passion to be passionate about your work.
Since that class in 1996, I always thought that I’d someday want to explore the entrepreneurial life. The reality is that I like earning a stable income with benefits and I’m pretty risk averse. Also, in 96, the stock market was going crazy so if you wanted to earn extra money, you could just invest in anything and proclaim yourself a stock market genius. The last 10+ years haven’t been as easy…to say the least.
So what I’ve been pondering the last year or so is, if I had a windfall, where would I invest it? I don’t want any more in the stock market, but I want to make more than the 1% that banks are offering.
Diversify Using a Small Business Idea
So, here’s my latest thought. Could I invest in a fun little business that could also be an income stream during retirement? You learn this business as a weekend warrior and by the time you retire, you have a nice little thing to putter around with. My dearly departed friend Ken had a sugar shack on his family’s farm. He just did it for fun, but it’s the kind of thing I was thinking about. You first invest in a little land with sugar maples, then you build the shack and every year, you invest a little more to increase your sugaring capacity. (For the record, the ROI on that is pretty bad unless you already have the land.) Or maybe you always liked the arts and you decide that buying a large format printer can open the doors to a little printing business.
Let’s just pretend Obama passed a small business stimulus just for you and you were given $15,000 to get your business going. Do you have any thoughts to what that business might be? If so, what would you spend it on and what’s the payback time? To get the creative juices flowing, here is a list of businesses that can be started with $5-$15K. Now maybe mini-blind cleaning is not the top of your list, but dog breeder may be.
Not everyone has the guts to go out and take a $1MM loan to start a factory, but you don’t necessarily need to go that big to be a business owner. I think I was limiting myself by thinking too big. I don’t necessarily need to replace my salary. I keep thinking back to the phrase, “it takes money to make money”..okay, what if you had it, then what? I think a good place to start is some advice from Barb Friedberg gave on how to get rich. Her article goes into 4 important habits, but my favorite of her list is delayed gratification and Action.
I don’t know if this would be a goal I’ll follow through on, but it’s at least worth a little thought and discussion.
Would love to get people’s input.